Sustainable tourism resources

A quick guide to Sustainable Tourism Certification

A sustainable tourism certification program is a means of benchmarking your business, participants are audited on their integration of sustainable management practices, the impact of their services on environmental and social issues, the client or other stakeholder’s perception of the business, and the consistency between the services rendered and offered. 

Being endorsed with a certification that is GSTC approved, helps your tourism business to avoid greenwashing and gain further market intelligence on your business practices. 

GSTC otherwise known as the Global Sustainable Tourism Council , does not provide accreditation certifications, but it does evaluate and accredit the Certification Bodies (CB) and their certification processes to ensure that it is based on merit and neutrality.  Hotels, destinations and tour operators have the opportunity to seek and acquire certification by a third-party audit to ensure that their sustainable management standards are compatible with GSTC Criteria, which is a universal guideline for sustainable tourism.  

There are many qualified certification brands or CB from which to choose from, based on the type of service your business offers. For destinations around the globe, Netherland based  Green Destinations is a non-profit organisation that offers two types of certificate recognition, Full Certification and Pre-certification Rewards which gives potential eligibility to be in the annual Sustainable Top 100 Destinations ranking.  Lord Howe Island in Australia, a World Heritage paradise is just one example of an exemplary destination that tops the list. 

EarthCheck, an advisory group, is another GSTC accredited CB that offers destination certification and states “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”. Globally many destinations that have achieved the Earthcheck Leading Destinations of the World Status such as  Teton County, Wyoming in the United States where achieved initiatives include reducing food waste and community coordination strategies of converting waste from landfills.

Key brands for hotel certification include  Green Globe, Travelife,  Green Key and  Earth Check.  Non-profit driven, Danish-based Green Key, has over 3200 awarded establishments in 65 countries, notably are the Radisson Hotel Group which includes Park Inn Hotel by Radisson, Ekaterinburg Russia.  Travelife notes that it has a proven record to help hotels and resorts reduce their operating cost by reducing energy and water consumption.  

Tour operators can also achieve certification status, notable brands such as  Green Key and Travelife offer programs to educate and measure sustainable procedures and impacts.  In Italy, Aloschi Bros. European Tour Operators have been “helping to remind each other to save and preserve” among its many other sustainable achievements recognized by Travelife. 

Which certification to choose? 
Choosing a CB that is accredited by GSTC is the first step, then in that each CB is unique, selecting one that has audit fees that align best with your company’s budget, fits in the timeline for which you need an auditor, and contains specialization or expertise which is important for your company’s vision are all key factors.  Regardless of which CB you may engage, it will be a positive step forward in continuing to grow towards higher sustainable goals.

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